Families USA Health Action 2008: Nancy Pelosi’s Opening Address

Pasted GraphicThe featured highlight address at the opening session of the Families USA conference is by Nancy Pelosi, Congress’ first woman Speaker. In person, Speaker Pelosi clearly comes across as a brilliant and warm woman, a friend of Families USA, and she was introduced as a champion of social justice and equality in the 110th (2007) Congress, passing the first minimum wage increase in a decade and making college more affordable for working families. While I’m not certain this is true, I heard comments beforehand that this speech was slated as a major health care policy statement by the Speaker.

In it, she succinctly laid out several core principle of her view of reform.

“I want to start by talking about something that we all agree on: that everybody in America has a right to quality health care. But what is it that this health care should look like? What are the principles that this approach should have?”

    – A Strong Commitment to Biomedical Research. Since tax dollars must go to support this commitment, the fruits of that research should be available to everyone in America.

    – A Common Lifelong Electronic Health Record, with Confidentiality and Privacy. This supports the idea that the care of the most privileged person benefits when everyone is included in the system.

    – Care That Is Personalized To The Individual. Technology that helps us match the right care to individual differences and needs.

    – Bringing People Into The Loop (Opening Access). Making care available for everyone in the country, and eliminating medical disparities in the minority communities.

    – Prevention. Promoting healthy lifestyles with exercise and nutrition.

    – Mental Health Parity. In any given year, one in four adults will have a mental condition, producing 1.3 million lost workdays, and producing an enormous but mostly unappreciated toll on the nation’s health and economy.

Obviously, these are all laudably broad objectives of any health care reform plan. That said, with the notable exception of the commitment to better, more ubiquitious health care information technology, many of these planks are NOT roots of our current crisis, and don’t acknowledge or address the structural flaws that are driving the system into collapse. They don’t, for example, consider the development of standards, pricing/performance transparency, tying performance to payment, or special interest influence over policy.

So while her policy planks are all certainly desirable, if they represent the parameters of her commitment to resolving the health care crisis that is sapping access from the mainstream of American citizens and financial stability from the American economy, then the Democratic party’s promise of genuinely addressing our health care dilemma is less promising than I hoped.

About Brian Klepper

Brian Klepper is a health care analyst, commentator and a Principal in Worksite Health Advisors.
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